February 1, 2008

Wake up and smell the prejudice

In the wake of Monkeygate, Indians must confront the ugly fact that they are racist - unconsciously or otherwise
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There is a lesson for Harbhajan and his mates, and for all of us, in the fact that the charge, once divorced from its racial connotation, was watered down © Getty Images

In a north London pub on a warm summer's afternoon three years ago, I had an absorbing conversation with an English novelist friend of mine. We were talking about the cultural and political resonances swear words have in different countries.

"So what would be a really insulting one in India?" my friend asked.

"Er, in which language?"

"Well, any language. Okay, let's say, in Hindi."

"Sisterf***er," I said.

"Mmm," my friend - celebrated in many countries for his irony and his urbane, polished prose - looked at me over the rim of his glass. "Now that doesn't sound too awful. If you'd called some of our Premier League footballers that, they might have told you, 'Yeah, and so?'"

I sniggered into my drink. People from the adjacent table turned to look at us. We carried on.

At the end of the afternoon, neither my friend nor I had any doubt that across the world as a whole, a racist slur would be the most unacceptable one of all: even Premier League footballers who would have found nothing objectionable about having a not quite uncorrupted relationship with their sisters would have been appalled and taken exception to a racist taunt.

I thought of this conversation in the days following the reversal of Harbhajan Singh's ban, amid the howling maelstrom of outrage about whether India had flexed its financial muscle -- and if it had, by how much -- to have Australia and the rest of the cricket world cower at its feet.

I thought of it because in that swirl of emotions we Indians have tended to lose sight of a problem we need to tackle: we are still in denial that we are a deeply racist country. Often, we are racist although we are not conscious of being so. (It's time we were.) We, with our fondness for light skin tones, tend to be prejudiced against those with darker ones. We don't think of it as racism. But the world does. And it is. It can't go on. We need to grow up.

A few examples.

In the aftermath of the overturning of the ban, a board administrator was quoted as having said something like, "We shall not stand for our boys being called racists." Our boys? Racists? Gosh. Cue incredulity, shock, horror. (Denial.)

When Andrew Symonds was taunted with monkey chants by the crowd in Vadodara, and then in Mumbai last year, I remember some of my colleagues - educated, affluent, urban Indians, all of them - saying, "Oh, so what's the fuss? The Australians say much worse." (Ignorance, unknowingness, denial.) "Monkey," they said, is hardly that offensive. To be fair, the term does not quite imply in India what it does in the UK or the US or Australia, though it's not good enough to say that any more.

They were missing the point.

And here is another example - from my own childhood.

I grew up in a middle-class, educated Bengali household in Kolkata. The routine term to describe the complexion of someone like myself -- not fair, like some of the members of my extended family -- was "moila" (literally translated as "dirty"). The funny thing, I now find, was that no one thought much of having said it. It was uttered unselfconsciously -- if always with a bit of regret.

They were missing the point too; but we can't afford to do that any longer. We need to first accept that as a nation, India is among the most racist in the world. African students on the streets of Mumbai will testify to that, as will black cricketers. Then, we need to be aware of the fact that a racist insult is the absolute worst thing that you can throw at someone; and finally, we need to unshackle ourselves from this mindset.

All this is made tricky given India's complex, disconcerting, and often inexplicable relationship with colour. The festishisation of white skin in a brown-skinned country comes bound up with an irreconcilable sense of contradiction and a notion of, often unconscious, self-loathing. Creams and lotions that claim to lighten one's skin have for years comprised an industry worth many millions in India. Look at the matrimonial ads. Listen to some of the conversations in educated, affluent, urban households. And keep your ears pricked, particularly for the throwaway asides.

In India, fair still equates to pretty, handsome, attractive. And the opposite? Well...

 
 
The changing of a collective consciousness, of course, is a long process. But India's international cricket players will need to be among the first to adapt, and quickly. It is convenient and fatuous to pretend that sport exists only for itself and that cricketers are merely sportspersons. It isn't. And they aren't. Cricket's place is at the heart of Indian popular culture
 

But the point is this: Talking about cultural differences simply isn't good enough anymore in this context. Times have changed. We live in a global village. More and more societies are taking pride in their multicultural identities. Indians travel more than they ever did. The country has changed more rapidly in the past ten years than it did in the previous 50. We no longer have a choice but to be aware of global templates of racism and to be sensitive towards them. Unlearning our deeply entrenched notions of and responses to skin tone will take years, but being aware of things will be some sort of a start.

The changing of a collective consciousness, of course, is a long process. But our international cricket players will need to be among the first to adapt, and quickly. It is convenient and fatuous to pretend that sport exists only for itself and that cricketers are merely sportspersons.

It isn't. And they aren't. Cricket's place is at the heart of Indian popular culture; and to large swathes of the world's population, these cricketers exemplify India. They are India's global ambassadors.

There is a lesson for Harbhajan and his mates, and for all of us, in the fact that the charge, once divorced from its racial connotation, was watered down. The lesson is that abusive language is less of an offence internationally than a racist taunt; that a Hindi phrase that isn't, well, terribly respectful towards someone else's mother is seen to be less criminal than calling that someone a monkey.

The sooner we learn that lesson, the better it is for Harbhajan -- and the rest of the country. It will help us grow up.

Soumya Bhattacharya, deputy editor of Hindustan Times in Mumbai, is the author of the memoir, You Must Like Cricket?. His new book on how cricket defines India will be published as part of Penguin's Indian Essentials series later this year

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • The_Impulsive_Slow on February 2, 2008, 5:53 GMT

    This article might fit better in some uber-intellectual rag, where people can discuss the quality of prose over earl-grey tea, but this is cricket we are talking about, are we not? What has this grotesque gross-generalization of an article to do with cricket.Sorry if I missed the point here. Yes , a small section of the crowd at Mumbai were irresponsible and juvenile. But they were still a small section; you didnt see the whole stadium going up in Mexican wave of sorts, doing the monkey chants, did you?There are tourists being robbed and swindled in India, but does that mean we are a nation of theives now?

    "The festishisation of white skin in a brown-skinned country" - How many brown-skinned countries don't?Does that mean they are all racist? What about white-skinned countries?Are they not racist?

    Maybe you should wake up and smell the coffee first, before writing.

  • VikramAdith on February 2, 2008, 5:24 GMT

    The problem is that global definitions of racism can be thrown into a bit of disarray when dealing with India. Indian governments have always denied recognising caste-discrimination as racism, as they claim that the UN's definition for racism does not cover Indian ishtyle caste-based discrimination. However, we all know that for all practical purposes, it is the same thing.

    As for this whole skin colour hullabulla, it is a phenomenon created by several different issues crashing into one. And yes, racism is one of them. While ancient Indian texts like the Bhagavatha Puranas rarely showed any preference for skin colour, things seem to have changed over the last few centuries. It seems quite likely that being subjugate to the White Raj for a few hundred years has had its effect on our population.

    Western countries do like tanning, yes, but we cannot say that this preference derives from being made inferior to any other race. The same cannot be said for Indians though.

  • Ganesh11 on February 2, 2008, 5:19 GMT

    Saumya...ah ..you are falling into the familiar Westernised error of judging everything by the thinking of the average person in the rich Westernised countries. Do they have more people than say , India,China and parts of Africa. And your definition of "global" is wrong.

    For the average Western and so-called Westernised Indian, calling a person a "monkey" is worse than calling someone an unprintable error. But for Indians, a slur based on an allegation about one's parentage is definitely far far worse . Why should Indians be judged by your definition of "global" standards.

    Your definition of "global" implies "Western" rather than global. You have to wake up - The "global" economy and the "global" media are by your definition, run on Eastern Standard Time or GMT, but things are changing.

  • CRam on February 2, 2008, 5:04 GMT

    There may be a point to be made for being more conscious in avoiding use of terms that may be construed as racist in other nations. However, I think the key factor in determining whether a nation and its people are racist or otherwise is not whether they call them names, but whether they are discriminated against on that or whether they are treated equally as any other. On that count, Indians will not qualify as being racist, it is a penchant for mockery that needs to be rid of.

  • Jeremy68 on February 2, 2008, 3:41 GMT

    This article needed to be written,to start debate & self-reflection among Indians about racism in Indian society.I haven't been to India but assume that it is just as prevalent there as anywhere else.There is definitely racism in Australia,just like anywehere else,but fortunately also widespread acceptance that it exists.Australia has matured in recent decades,and through accepting that racism exists the dreadful problems and injustices it causes can be addressed.Mature self-reflection and ceasing to deny the problem is the most fundamentally difficult but most important step.

    Whether a word is racist or not must be judged by the subject of it, not by the person uttering it who thinks it isn't.Australian cricketers have recently learnt hard lessons about international perceptions of them. Footage of some Mumbai fans in October 2007 and much indignant rhetoric about Australian racism has also drawn focus upon widespread denial of racism in India.Racism exists everywhere.

  • popenoe on February 2, 2008, 2:35 GMT

    Thanks for striking at the extreme racism practiced in India. Gandhi fought against racism everywhere, but have his ideas stuck in India? I think not, despite claims to the contrary. When I was playing cricket, my own family, including my wife, complained that I would get dark exposing my skin to the sun so much! The fact that I was successful at my cricketing career was inconsequential. I gave up cricket for other pursuits in life, but cricket is in my blood. For all the high moral grounds claimed, I'm sorry to say that racism (i.e., discriminating because of a person's body color) is inherently in the Indian psyche. This attitued should be gotten rid of permanently. As the article points out, just look at the matrimonials all over! The sooner this attitude is shed, the better everything will be. Growth in economy does not necessarily mean growth in what matters! imply growth in tolerance and sympathy. As the old adage says ``you catch more flies w

  • baradutt_thinbuly on February 2, 2008, 2:25 GMT

    I don't want to make a judgement whether Bhaji meant whatever he said as a 'racist taunt'. It might also have been out of emotion in the heat of the situation. But, as an Indian I would say, yes, racism is a big and very old problem in India, unlike other countries where it is nascent. We live with it. I've even heard my Indian friends here in the USA, talking about the US being a racist country when they themselves know in the back of their mind, how people of different communities are treated in India. When politicians who instead of rooting out these evils, use it as a tool to get to positions of power to make bucks for them and bakras out of people still exist, racism will never be eradicated. Like Soumya says, sportspeople like Bhaji are ambassadors of India and should practise patience and never give others a chance to criticize them. He should learn from his mistakes and restrain himself. We need aggression in performance and not in taunts. The Aussies seem to do well in both.

  • arindam1971 on February 2, 2008, 2:18 GMT

    Even though I wouldn't term Bhajji's outburst in this specific case as racist, I do agree with Soumya that we have an element of racism in our society. Without ever trying to generalize across such a diverse country, I would just like to mention an experience from 8 years ago.

    In 2000 I was working in Mumbai for a Multi-National company that had a sizeable expatriate workforce. One of the engineers working for me was Nigerian. He had recently arrived with his family and was searching for an apartment in Mumbai. At one point the company had almost closed a deal for a lease when the landlord found out that the prospective tenant was black. Without any inquiry in to his background the landlord simply refused to rent his apartment to the engineer - simply because he did not want a black person living in his apartment.

    However, one should not try to generalize, neither should we think that we are worse off than any other Western population in terms of racism or prejudice.

  • Ianrulz on February 2, 2008, 1:59 GMT

    Thankyou Soumya - it is great to hear some rational thinking! Posters, if you canot accept that Monkey is a racist word (and probably the single most racist word), then you are an ignorant bigot. You need to show some cultural sensitivity. In Australia, we have a bad history with racism, we accept that and we are trying really hard promote tolerance and acceptance in our great multi-cultural land. Our sports stars (and most of you only know 11) accept their mistakes and understand their roles as role models. Nobody is perfect. The best role model is human. They can make mistakes, as we all do, but they stand up and take responsibilities for their actions. In this way role models can help to address andiron out any issues that might, in the future, hinder India's progress as a powerful nation.

  • openforum on February 2, 2008, 1:43 GMT

    First of all, keep cricket and moral instruction separate. You are disgracing one-sixth of humanity for an incident which was not proven. If you want to talk about indians and racism this is not the proper venue.

    On to the broader point: Is there a problem of racism(treating people differently based on which group they belong to) in india? Certainly. Is it the worst in the world? you need to visit a few more countries if you think so.

    Judge individuals on their merit (a few people among thousands at mumbai match and does not represent a billion). Racists think only in terms of groups as do collectivists like you. You need to grow up too when you are telling an entire nation to do so.

  • The_Impulsive_Slow on February 2, 2008, 5:53 GMT

    This article might fit better in some uber-intellectual rag, where people can discuss the quality of prose over earl-grey tea, but this is cricket we are talking about, are we not? What has this grotesque gross-generalization of an article to do with cricket.Sorry if I missed the point here. Yes , a small section of the crowd at Mumbai were irresponsible and juvenile. But they were still a small section; you didnt see the whole stadium going up in Mexican wave of sorts, doing the monkey chants, did you?There are tourists being robbed and swindled in India, but does that mean we are a nation of theives now?

    "The festishisation of white skin in a brown-skinned country" - How many brown-skinned countries don't?Does that mean they are all racist? What about white-skinned countries?Are they not racist?

    Maybe you should wake up and smell the coffee first, before writing.

  • VikramAdith on February 2, 2008, 5:24 GMT

    The problem is that global definitions of racism can be thrown into a bit of disarray when dealing with India. Indian governments have always denied recognising caste-discrimination as racism, as they claim that the UN's definition for racism does not cover Indian ishtyle caste-based discrimination. However, we all know that for all practical purposes, it is the same thing.

    As for this whole skin colour hullabulla, it is a phenomenon created by several different issues crashing into one. And yes, racism is one of them. While ancient Indian texts like the Bhagavatha Puranas rarely showed any preference for skin colour, things seem to have changed over the last few centuries. It seems quite likely that being subjugate to the White Raj for a few hundred years has had its effect on our population.

    Western countries do like tanning, yes, but we cannot say that this preference derives from being made inferior to any other race. The same cannot be said for Indians though.

  • Ganesh11 on February 2, 2008, 5:19 GMT

    Saumya...ah ..you are falling into the familiar Westernised error of judging everything by the thinking of the average person in the rich Westernised countries. Do they have more people than say , India,China and parts of Africa. And your definition of "global" is wrong.

    For the average Western and so-called Westernised Indian, calling a person a "monkey" is worse than calling someone an unprintable error. But for Indians, a slur based on an allegation about one's parentage is definitely far far worse . Why should Indians be judged by your definition of "global" standards.

    Your definition of "global" implies "Western" rather than global. You have to wake up - The "global" economy and the "global" media are by your definition, run on Eastern Standard Time or GMT, but things are changing.

  • CRam on February 2, 2008, 5:04 GMT

    There may be a point to be made for being more conscious in avoiding use of terms that may be construed as racist in other nations. However, I think the key factor in determining whether a nation and its people are racist or otherwise is not whether they call them names, but whether they are discriminated against on that or whether they are treated equally as any other. On that count, Indians will not qualify as being racist, it is a penchant for mockery that needs to be rid of.

  • Jeremy68 on February 2, 2008, 3:41 GMT

    This article needed to be written,to start debate & self-reflection among Indians about racism in Indian society.I haven't been to India but assume that it is just as prevalent there as anywhere else.There is definitely racism in Australia,just like anywehere else,but fortunately also widespread acceptance that it exists.Australia has matured in recent decades,and through accepting that racism exists the dreadful problems and injustices it causes can be addressed.Mature self-reflection and ceasing to deny the problem is the most fundamentally difficult but most important step.

    Whether a word is racist or not must be judged by the subject of it, not by the person uttering it who thinks it isn't.Australian cricketers have recently learnt hard lessons about international perceptions of them. Footage of some Mumbai fans in October 2007 and much indignant rhetoric about Australian racism has also drawn focus upon widespread denial of racism in India.Racism exists everywhere.

  • popenoe on February 2, 2008, 2:35 GMT

    Thanks for striking at the extreme racism practiced in India. Gandhi fought against racism everywhere, but have his ideas stuck in India? I think not, despite claims to the contrary. When I was playing cricket, my own family, including my wife, complained that I would get dark exposing my skin to the sun so much! The fact that I was successful at my cricketing career was inconsequential. I gave up cricket for other pursuits in life, but cricket is in my blood. For all the high moral grounds claimed, I'm sorry to say that racism (i.e., discriminating because of a person's body color) is inherently in the Indian psyche. This attitued should be gotten rid of permanently. As the article points out, just look at the matrimonials all over! The sooner this attitude is shed, the better everything will be. Growth in economy does not necessarily mean growth in what matters! imply growth in tolerance and sympathy. As the old adage says ``you catch more flies w

  • baradutt_thinbuly on February 2, 2008, 2:25 GMT

    I don't want to make a judgement whether Bhaji meant whatever he said as a 'racist taunt'. It might also have been out of emotion in the heat of the situation. But, as an Indian I would say, yes, racism is a big and very old problem in India, unlike other countries where it is nascent. We live with it. I've even heard my Indian friends here in the USA, talking about the US being a racist country when they themselves know in the back of their mind, how people of different communities are treated in India. When politicians who instead of rooting out these evils, use it as a tool to get to positions of power to make bucks for them and bakras out of people still exist, racism will never be eradicated. Like Soumya says, sportspeople like Bhaji are ambassadors of India and should practise patience and never give others a chance to criticize them. He should learn from his mistakes and restrain himself. We need aggression in performance and not in taunts. The Aussies seem to do well in both.

  • arindam1971 on February 2, 2008, 2:18 GMT

    Even though I wouldn't term Bhajji's outburst in this specific case as racist, I do agree with Soumya that we have an element of racism in our society. Without ever trying to generalize across such a diverse country, I would just like to mention an experience from 8 years ago.

    In 2000 I was working in Mumbai for a Multi-National company that had a sizeable expatriate workforce. One of the engineers working for me was Nigerian. He had recently arrived with his family and was searching for an apartment in Mumbai. At one point the company had almost closed a deal for a lease when the landlord found out that the prospective tenant was black. Without any inquiry in to his background the landlord simply refused to rent his apartment to the engineer - simply because he did not want a black person living in his apartment.

    However, one should not try to generalize, neither should we think that we are worse off than any other Western population in terms of racism or prejudice.

  • Ianrulz on February 2, 2008, 1:59 GMT

    Thankyou Soumya - it is great to hear some rational thinking! Posters, if you canot accept that Monkey is a racist word (and probably the single most racist word), then you are an ignorant bigot. You need to show some cultural sensitivity. In Australia, we have a bad history with racism, we accept that and we are trying really hard promote tolerance and acceptance in our great multi-cultural land. Our sports stars (and most of you only know 11) accept their mistakes and understand their roles as role models. Nobody is perfect. The best role model is human. They can make mistakes, as we all do, but they stand up and take responsibilities for their actions. In this way role models can help to address andiron out any issues that might, in the future, hinder India's progress as a powerful nation.

  • openforum on February 2, 2008, 1:43 GMT

    First of all, keep cricket and moral instruction separate. You are disgracing one-sixth of humanity for an incident which was not proven. If you want to talk about indians and racism this is not the proper venue.

    On to the broader point: Is there a problem of racism(treating people differently based on which group they belong to) in india? Certainly. Is it the worst in the world? you need to visit a few more countries if you think so.

    Judge individuals on their merit (a few people among thousands at mumbai match and does not represent a billion). Racists think only in terms of groups as do collectivists like you. You need to grow up too when you are telling an entire nation to do so.

  • rgom on February 2, 2008, 1:26 GMT

    Any abuse is bad, but there is no reason people of India should accept that racial abuse is worse than say, abusing one's lineage. What the author considers international barely covers one-third of the world's population.

  • Shash28 on February 2, 2008, 1:18 GMT

    Well, interesting arugment... I'm not Indian but Sri Lankan and see the definite "racist" nature in some of the things we do. Still, I personally would prefer someone to assissinate my race than insult my wife, mother or sister. Perhaps Australian's won't think it too wrong to use the term "bugger" either, but frankly I don't enjoy having intercourse with animals and don't take to me being accused to it that "lightly." Racism and personal insults being differently ranked is just another hypocritcal political game... nevertheless on Harbhajan, I'm sure he said it... he should have been punished - as of Australia's behaviour, should still be a call for concern EVEN if they don't evoke racist taunts. Anyone have some say about the McGrath-Sarwan affair?

  • Mikkin on February 2, 2008, 1:08 GMT

    Soumya, when the friend of yours whom you met in the pub said that sisterf****r is not that bad. If i were you, I would have said that so is monkey not bad for any Indian. For any Indian, I believe the former is even worse than a racist slur, given the cultural values that we bond with our families. I do agree with your point that it is ignorance, but haeh...!! Why us...!! Why should we behave the way they want us to. Why is it all the time that we are forced to follow the way they say. I am proud of BCCI for using their money power. I dont care if harbhajan used those words or not. But even if he did...It is indeed a great feeling to pinch the world and show them their own reflection in the mirror.. at least once.

  • hiimbarney on February 2, 2008, 0:54 GMT

    :o) Wow I read some very intellectual arguments, many making very good sense in spite of there varying beliefs and claims. It seems that there are many varying experiences from Indian people within their own culture. Those who appear not to have been exposed to the same taunts and comments about their skin colour be it dark or more pale. Their experiences are real and their interpretations valid. We debate words and their perceived meaning in various parts of the world. Yet people within the same culture hearing the same comments have different reactions. Although the the reaction of the the individual being subjected to the taunt is important. The intention of the person/s saying it is equally if not more relevant.

  • Chalsumit on February 2, 2008, 0:49 GMT

    1. Are we accepting the charges that Vajji said that 'M' word? If not, why are we writing this article on the first place? 2. Calling somebody by the 'M' word is deemed to be more harmful than directing few words towards an opponent teammate's mother. Says who? In what culture? Why do I have to accept that? Why both will not be marked as the same level of offence because each of them is unacceptable in respective cultures? 3. When some players started uttering the words about others mothers and sisters, did they realize that it might not be acceptable to the people from some parts of the world? Why the big fuss today then?

  • ExCric on February 2, 2008, 0:47 GMT

    "India is among the most racist in the world", unless we have visited every nation we should be vary of making that assumption. Indians do not group themselves by race and colour in school and at work. Dark skinned Indians are not looked upon surprisingly when they make an entry into exclusive restaurants.I think what you may have meant to say is that Indians can be racist, but to use the term "most" is to show astonishing submission to one extreme. The only part I can agree with you on this is the bias towards African students in Mumbai.Finally, as this is related to the cricket controversy, I will only urge people to please read Judge Hansen's entire transcript and then draw conclusions.

  • pillav on February 2, 2008, 0:47 GMT

    This article is useless, but it is important for someone to tell it is useless because many people can start having wrong perceptions. To put in a nut shell the author gives a very personal example from his child hood (I am from south and never heard the term "moila", sorry for my ignocence), next composes a small paragraph with his biased opinion (but magically includes "we" here and there to make it sound like unbiased) and then talks about a perception of Indians towards fair skin which is completely irrelevant(starting with a term "tricky" to make it sound like a complex finding). Everything else in the article is just masala (global village,denial,collective consciousness)added to this nonsense. This is how far the author could think. He/she really doesn't know about racism in India. In fact the author's intention was never to write about racism but just to attract some readers. Even if "we Indians" are racists, the author would have a tough time to write a decent article.

  • rastus_odinga_esquire on February 2, 2008, 0:46 GMT

    princessjasmine, will you marry me? email me at leartiste2001@yahoo.com please!

    Racism depends on both the intent of the person making the remark and the relationship between him/her and the aggrieved party.

    For instance, I once called a dear Russian friend "Boris" - as a joke. My friend was horribly offended and I (mortified) apologised. I was forgiven because of our friendship. My friend knew me well enough to know that I would never be deliberately offensive.

    To the issue at hand. There is no friendship between Bhaji and Symonds, and there is no love for Symonds from the Indian crowds.

    We can argue back and forth about monkeygate all we like and say that calling someone a monkey is not racist (at least in India). But this is not India's call. They need to view this from Symonds viewpoint. Worse, Bhaji made this comment to Symonds knowing full well the intent of the Indian crowds, and how Symdonds felt about it. Worse still, Bhaji did not have courage to admit his fault.

  • Kulaputra on February 2, 2008, 0:45 GMT

    For those that think this has nothing to do with cricket, please read Mr. R Guha's book on cricket. Our best bowler to date Mr. P Baloo has never been give is place in the sun (even today) because he was a dalit. The fact that we have brahmin domination in cricket is no coincidence. Demeaning ads for 'Fair & Lovely', depicting a dark skinned girl as undesirable and fair skinned as not is allowed by censor boards. There is caste system (apartheid in full bloom), sati even today. Having worked in multiple countried, I know our reaction to dark skinned people. I long ago lost illusions about us being race sensitive. Personally, I have accepted the learned judge's verdict on Singh Symonds incident but have woken up to stark realities of racism and will start being sensitive. I strongly feel putting pressure on the learned judge by BCCI statements was absurd. If we want natural justice to prevail, our methods were wrong!!!

  • kunal13 on February 2, 2008, 0:34 GMT

    Highly irresponsible article by any of the cricinfo journalist. I think the previous posts have already said alot to counter question your arguments. In perticular I was quite amazed by your logic of chosing fair brides as an argument to justify the racial nature of average indian. I mean that way if anyone is looking for tall, stunted, same religion, same educational background etc in bride or groom is equally racial???? Its just a matter of choice.

    Please dont get judgemental and draw conclusions for entire nation based on your personal experiences. Sitting in UK and finilizing that racial slur is the worst offence to me is baffeling. Who are you to make such judgmental comment and generalize it for the entire nation. Whatever happened in australia was unfortunate.It can happen in the heat of moment. Dont forget what mcgrath did to sarwan, mike slater to dravid, and denis lilee to gavaskar. But nothing of this sort happened then.

  • Six_Wickets on February 1, 2008, 17:59 GMT

    While I posted a previous ridiculing Soumya's article, I do find the need to point an issue that no doubt looms over India. That is a general civil disrespect for alw and order. There seems to be a challenge to respect for other views and law and order. Disobedience is rampant and almost construed as right. What was witnessed in Mumbasi was a stark example of the state. The viewers failed to comprehend that if Symonds did not like it, then it is in appropriate to gesture something that offends him. Period. It was not a matter of what we deemed acceptable. This, on the other hand, is ridiculous to be called racist (and that can be a whole seperate debate).

    But Soumya's point about modifying behavoiur and be cognizant of multi-cultural visitors does have a strong value. It is important not be rogue and disrespectful for our own good. It simply makes this place more warm to visitors and hence prosperity. But I still stand by previous post that this article is far fetched.

  • green_jelly on February 1, 2008, 17:58 GMT

    What a supercilious, disdainfully irresponsible article! Do you realize that the statement "Indians are racist" is itself racist? And where do you get the idea that preference of "fair" and "dark" means racist? In India, people of the SAME race can be fair and dark. Haven't you read stories of "fair maidens and princes"? Are they racist? And half of India is "dark skinned". By the way, I've been called a monkey a million times, and never once was it "racist".

  • Wild_Type on February 1, 2008, 17:54 GMT

    Soumya, you are correct to point out that ignorance and denial about racism is major phenomenon in India, and that this does need to be addressed, however you are judging Indians too harshly - it is unfair to bring up Indians' preference for white skin as racism when it is just aesthetic choice. You say 'skin whitening cream', I say 'tanning salon'. You say 'moila', I say 'pasty'. A white British woman may write on her Internet dating site profile that she prefers black men, but that does not make her racist. Secondly, who are you to decide that a racist term is the worst insult? A man with very emotional ties to his family may be more offended when called a 'bastard' or other familial insults than a racist one. Can we just assume that Kumble and Dhoni were less offended than Symonds? All this talk of global village is fine enough, but if racist terms are so punishable, so should some of these other terms liberally used by the Aussies if they are as offensive to others.

  • jugadu on February 1, 2008, 17:51 GMT

    Soumya didnt think in his childhood that 'moila' was a racist term because it was just the most appropriate term for that color - 'dirty brown' or 'dirty white' is more appropriate description for some specific shades of 'off-white' color. But when he grew up and found out that some people in the world were sensitive to such terms, he realized that may be there is a defect in the Indian psyche that needs to be corrected. This is the height of submissiveness !! To me, a term becomes racist if it is meant in that way. The same term 'monkey' cannot be termed racist if it wasnt meant in that way, even if it was used for Symonds. As you can tell, these categorizations are quite vague, cannot be evaluated and are totally based on english sensitivities. Unfortunately, Soumya was submissive enough to believe that sister slur was less offensive than 'monkey' because westeners think like that. Who's racist now, Soumya ??

  • princessjasmin on February 1, 2008, 17:43 GMT

    Soumya, I am adark-skinned begali girl.I avoid the sun like the plague. I use 'fair and lovely'.Yes-in India, one aspect of beauty has traditionally been 'fair skin'.How is this different from the ideals of being tall, blonde/blue-eyed/slim or tall/dark/handsome? Being 'fair' as a woman has been desirable in the past history of the western world too. Presently, some white women visit tanning salons/sunbathe to get a tan. Does that mean that the western world is prejudiced against pale skin? Having dark skin in India NEVER condemns you of being unworthy;nor does it prevent you from pursuing ambitions & succeeding -EVEN in the glamour world e.g.,Bipasha, Sushmita, Priyanka, Kajol, Rani, Malaika . Racism is the denial of rights and assumption of superiority to a group of people based on skin colour/ethnic background/religion- These names ought to reflect India's National Sentiment:KR Narayan, Abdul J Kalam, Manmohan Singh. Racism is a prejudice, but all prejudice is not racism.

  • Six_Wickets on February 1, 2008, 17:33 GMT

    There is an undeniable element in every society that can be said to be an element of racism including color of skin. But Soumya's article is of unfairness and feelings rather than the depth of issue of racism. His examples of comments on skin color and matrimony, rampant in India is a problem of prejudice, not race. Casteism can still be akin to racsim, but race has to do with a beleif and prejudice based on origin. In other words, if there was a greater motivation among the fairer skinned to justify their superiority based on skin color, and if it was practiced as a part of a uniform belief, it could be termed racial. But these are prejudices are more individual than a denial of a right to exist for another group. Soumya has stretched the imagination too far to term the Indian society racial. Such prejudices exist in every society and yes, they need to be tackled. But Racism is a different animal, and Soumay should take some serious comprehension before preaching.

  • Cellinis on February 1, 2008, 17:22 GMT

    India is rascist - agreed. But is monkey rascist? What about Hanumaan? Or are we supposed to change our words/expressions to suit the rest of the world? Maybe one of the writers should examine the meaning of the word 'monkey' to an Indian. "Bastard" would be most offensive to an Indian - so shouldn't the English speaking nations stop using it as a taunt? And finally, who judges which words are most offensive? Is the suggestion that you fornicate with your sister (or that your mother fornicates with four legged animals) really less offensive than being called a racial name? Where does this racism really originate? From the Indians who went across the globe decimating natives probably? Or from the Indians who slaved black men of Africa and used them like cattle?

  • lancer38 on February 1, 2008, 17:17 GMT

    Reality check. As long as there are different races on this planet,racism will exist. Unfortunately this is often used to spew hatred, and bigotry.

  • Spiritofcricket07 on February 1, 2008, 17:17 GMT

    I agree with Soumya. There is more racism in India than in any other country (well, most other countries) in the world. The way we treat people who are dark-skinned, who belong to a different state or different state is so prevalent that people accept it as part of life and not racist. The fact is anytime you judge a person based on how he looks or where he comes from, you are being a racist. There are no second thoughts about it. I am an Indian and I am proud to be an Indian. But, at the same time I am not ashamed to expose the bad things about India. Its time we learn to accept our mistakes and correct some of our age long (stupid) notions and culture.

  • kalyanbk on February 1, 2008, 17:12 GMT

    It is amazing how much that is written that has very little to do with cricket. Saumya should be wise enough to differentiate between preference and racism. I maybe attracted to asian girls over caucasian girls or blondes over redheads but that is a preference and does not make it racism. On the other hand a chinese man in Singapore turned his back on me and refused to serve me because I was an Indian. I guess Saumya hasn't really faced racism to know what it means. Saumya should also be aware of her responsibility as a media person not to paint a whole population of 1 billion without having interacted with even 10% of them.

  • blueoosky on February 1, 2008, 17:07 GMT

    I do agree with Soumya. India is indeed a very racist country in its own way. How many times have you seen a young girl playing with a black barbie? Thats the same reason why you are always looking for someone fair in the matrimonials. And yes, calling a person dark when he is really dark may be technically correct, but ethically wrong. How woul you feel if in Europe, someone calls you are nigger, because your skin color is darker than the general mass?

  • dinster77 on February 1, 2008, 17:00 GMT

    Soumya,

    I think you're the one that's missing the point. When those urban, educated, affluent people said "what's the fuss", I think they have a point. Those racist monkey taunts in a soccer game have "racist intentions" to them. They are directed at the victim with a specific intent to make him think that he's inferior because of the color of his skin. Harbhajan's case is clearly different (or I think is different). The intent was clearly to get under his skin by saying anything that will offend/irritate symonds. And there ends the matter. I highly doubt bhajji understands the racial implications of the word.

    India's caste system or categorization based on wealth can be equated to racism, I agree. But they do not pertain to Bhajji's case.

  • jaykarandikar on February 1, 2008, 16:45 GMT

    I agree with most of what is being said in this article. What I cannot agree to is to the statement that Indians are among the more racist of people. Simply because one cannot come to such a conclusion. Being an Indian and having lived in India, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and now the US, (and visited eurpoe and australia), I really cannot agree that we are more racist than some other nations. What we as a nation have not yet learned is subtly insulting others, the way some other nationals might. Indians wear their emotions on their sleeves, while some other people don't. I guess thats what one might call a cultural diference. What annoys me in this whole Harbhajan - Symonds nonsense is that Sachin Tendulkar's word was ignored over that of guys like Ricky Ponting, Mike Clark. I had been a big Aussie cricket team fan (to a point of being called anti Indian) untill seeing the aussie reaction to our 20/20 WC win, and their childish gimmicks in the Sydney test.

  • varunmahan on February 1, 2008, 16:41 GMT

    Poor Poor article. I expected better from Wisden. This fellow Soumya seems a bit confused in his world view. Firstly, he ought to be ashamed of himself with this ill thought out generalization that ALL Indians are racist. He has adopted a western view of racism wherein the term "monkey" has traditionally been used by white colonials do denote a sub human characteristic. The term monkey in India is not an offensive one. The monkey culturally has a higher status than most animals and have in fact been revered in religious terms for hundreds of years. To call someone a monkey in India would be to refer to their behavior, or character even. But it certainly is not a reference to genetic inferiority.

    It speaks volumes that Symonds would immediately assume he is being called a monkey (anyone with half a brain in India knows it was a misunderstanding) as it is what he has been taught to expect as an insult his entire life.

    The real tragedy is the assassination of Bhaji's character.

  • akbarhussaini on February 1, 2008, 16:29 GMT

    interesting article by Mr. Soumya.. It is very rightly said that since India is becoming a more global country with increased connectivity with the world, we must (atleast "global ambassadors") must be acquainted with the global cultures and "templates".. but just acquaintence or deliberate avoidance of global slurs doesnt seems to be the medicine for the chronic problem.. racism is actually the outcome of the MENTALITY of arrogance or superiority complex, and riddance with such confined mentality can only be achieved if we "actually" understand the universal principles of fraterity and humanity.

  • Jas.Kalsi on February 1, 2008, 16:21 GMT

    I don't really see much difference between black and Indian people. To be honest, I don't see much difference between black, Indian, or white people.

    I'm from England - mixed race; half white, half Indian - but my dad was born in Kenya. I have to say I do see the point being made in this article. Even Indians living in Kenya can be racist to native Africans and like many people I can't see why. In fact, I have noticed there can be racism from any race to any other race, obvious isn't it. I also see the point being made by other comments here, that wanting a certain skin colour doesn't necessarily have much to do with race at all. Another thing I personally think is that racism is an over sensitive topic; Symonds is not black, he's in the mixed race category just as I am, his skin is very slightly tanned, thats all.

  • thecrowdgoeswild on February 1, 2008, 16:18 GMT

    Money talks. Justice walks. And racism still stalks the cricket field.

    BCCI has clearly influenced the ICC to change its decision using its financial status. Singh did say those words and I believe Hayden and Symonds rather than Singh after the channel 9 released its audio coverage of the incident. And this is so totally WRONG. We as Indians must realize that yes India is becoming powerful, but we should not misuse the power we get. WITH POWER COMES RESPONSIBILITY. In all its attempt to get what it wanted, BCCI has compromised on moral values such as intolerance to racism. It instead has used its power status to get what it wanted and this is totally unfair. As a proud Indian, I do feel ashamed and yet there is hope that India will emerge as a RESPONSIBLE SUPER POWER if we can learn from our callous acts.

  • ani146 on February 1, 2008, 16:08 GMT

    The article starts with a chat on insulting language and suddenly shifts to racism and I really don't know if the examples cited complement each other. That does not mean I support abusive language anywhere (including cricket field). I am of the opinion that it should be banned from cricket (but again, it is MY opinion). Skin color is a really funny thing and as one of the readers pointed out, some people get their skin tanned, while others apply lotions to lighten it! It's a personal choice. I do agree with Soumya on one count that we should "grow up". Having said that, I find it ironical that he himself (hailing from an educated Bengali household in Kolkata) has not "grown up" and refers his skin color as "moila". I do have many Bengali friends from Kolkata, who would refer the darker skin as "chapa" or a shade darker. I am therefore wondering is this article really is a suggestion to a billion people to come out of a particular mindset or is it a retrospect of the author himself.

  • AbrarAhmed on February 1, 2008, 16:04 GMT

    Okay, only Harbajhan knows what he said but if he did say what he did how can anyone defend his actions (and I don't care whether he was provoked). He could have resorted to expletives for all I care and that would have been more excusable. All this disingenous talk of "monkey" being used in some sort of cultural context, which has been mistranslated. Absolute codswallop!

    Symokimaaki's comment would appear to give credence to the view that Mr Bhattacharaya is correct in his assumption in that many Indians (and many from the rest of the sub-continent)are in denial over their inherently racist tendencies. My view in Bangladesh is no different. Many there subscribe to the view that a fair complexion is to be valued higher than any other attributes that a person (especially a prospective bride) may have. But why stop there? Why not look at the extreme and outdated views expressed by so called "enlightened" students in attempting to supress the rights of the "untouchable" community?

  • KSVK on February 1, 2008, 16:03 GMT

    Sowmya, It's a nice article with a different perspective towards racism. But, I believe, Racism is something that is to happen between two races. Your relatives calling you "moila" do not make them racist, consciously or unselfconcipusly, just because you are offended, as they belong to the same race as yours. Another eg. I want to quote is a Black women who work with me sid that some Black men place a brown paper bag next their face to see if they are lighter than that to decide on a date. But this happening between two black people is not classified as racism. It's rather stupidity.

    I feel the Indian outcry is justified, as it's due for a long time. Australia and their media has long been a big bully. Shameless them came up with "culture" as an excuse for Hogg and refuses to take the same for Bajji. Symonds-bajji issue is double standards from all quartet biased towards Aus. India is acting rightly so, because they are the only one who can counter Australia in all it's might.

  • shbt158 on February 1, 2008, 15:59 GMT

    Hello Soumya,

    The word "denial" that you have used in the article is EXACTLY what is reflected in some of the bellicose comments. We, as Indians, have lots of good qualities. However, we have to learn to face the fact that we have deficiencies and instaed of confronting them and correcting them, we want to live in denial. This is an important article because people from all over the world are going to read thsi article. Only in India can a cosmetic product called "Fair and Lovely" be sold -- to lighten our natural skin tones. There are mythological and historical reasons due to which we equate beauty with fairness and dark tones with anything sinister and/or negative. It is articles like these that will wake us up from our collective slumber and denial. This is not about how mean/prejudiced Australians are/aren't. This is about us, our internal introspection is necessary. Thank you for starting the dialogue.

  • harv12 on February 1, 2008, 15:58 GMT

    to be quite honest i am born in england and am an Indian. My parents who were born in punjab often still describe how racist India is as a country, casting your mind back to 1984 when thousands if not millions of sikhs were brutally murdered by Hindus for no other reason except racism is a good foundation to call India a racist country. The person whose screename displays 'symonkimaaki' in itself shows how illetirate this individual is. I dont know what happened on the field between Harbhajan and Symonds but at the end of the day how can so called literates of india think that calling symonds a monkey is not a big deal but then be fuming when players from india are assinated, surely if you expect respect you should give it. What upsets me is that it brings Sikhs in a bad light when they are pulled out from amongst the crowd for using racial slurs.

  • sree_indian on February 1, 2008, 15:57 GMT

    Fully agree. At last someone took this issue up. thanks. I too have similar examples (from my own life) to share you. Our old caste system gives ample testimony to prove that we are racist. Look at general treatment to the people from the North-East, to the darker Souths.

  • thecrowdgoeswild on February 1, 2008, 15:56 GMT

    1) I think Singh did say the word "monkey" and here is the evidence. If you hear the Channel 9 (an Australian channel) audio coverage, you can clearly hear Hayden say to Singh "You've got a witness now, champ. It's a shit word and you know it." What's amazing about this is that Hayden is a WHITE GUY, but he still defends his team mate Symonds, who happens to be half white and half BLACK. So, this shows that Hayden is more concerned about his TEAM MATE and COUNTRYMEN than his RACE (white). This clearly justifies the fact that there are some Australians who aren't racists and are decent enough. This also shows there are some Indians who are racist like Singh. And when someone on this blog said that monkey is not a racist word, then why did Singh use it? This inspite of the warning the Indian team had received during the Indian tour. No man this is a shame on the Indian team's part. AND I TOTALLY AGREE.

  • crazyhorsehugo on February 1, 2008, 15:48 GMT

    The writer wanted to make a point, without much thought to the topic. The point is well taken - yes, indians have a weakness for the fair skin and the fair skinned. However, this has nothing to do with Symonds or monkeygate. I have never heard anyone being called a monkey because of skin color or race in india. i have spent considerable time in big cities, mumbai included. And i have met a lot of African students. Never have i ever heard anyone being called a monkey. On the other hand, i have heard kids being referred to as monkeys and donkeys by their friends. I doubt if any monkey reference to him was based on race. To me, at the end of it all, Symonds is a little too delicate. He has blown this out of proportion.

  • AussieBattler on February 1, 2008, 15:46 GMT

    symokimaaki... You are not close at all by comparing 'bastard' with 'sisterf*****r'.I understand there are lots of differences with our cultures but you are not even close!.Bastard is mostly used as a friendly dig at a mate and if its serious its still not even close to 'sisterf####r'We all know Bhajji said the 'M' word ,because if he didnt he wouldve said 'I didnt say it' but instead he said 'he started it' therefore incriminating himself.Lets not go on with this because its not good for International Cricket.The fact is we smashed the 'World Champions' in 20-20,so what have you got left???? ...Youve got nothing so respect you opponents and please DONT STIR THE WASP NEST!!!!

  • choc56 on February 1, 2008, 15:43 GMT

    Dear Soumya

    I would like to congratulate you on taking a stand rather than pussy-footing around the issue.

    As a Sri Lankan who has lived in Australia for many years, I learnt to take the rough with the smooth both on the cricket field and off) and I bear no ill feelings. I think that, like you rightly say, in this day and age of vanishing borders, I think this misplaced patriotism is something that should be left in the Dark Ages. For God's sakes, it's only a game of cricket, not World War 3!!

    I agree that some Indians can be pretty one-eyed (living back now in Sri Lanka and being exposed to Star Sports and Star Cricket, the slant given to Indian triumphs gives one the impression that they are the only team in the world) and your media must be blamed for this - for edifying your cricketers.

    I must say that though we Sri Lankans are cricket-mad too, we don't go to the extremes that some Indian fans go to. We've learnt to take defeat in our stride.This might be the way to

  • TheProphet on February 1, 2008, 15:39 GMT

    Almost everyone in the world is a bit racist. But generally people keep their racists thoughts to themselves and don't go around hurling racist abuse at everyone. The whole "Monkey" business that has gone along since people in India started calling Symonds a Monkey is not racist though. The whole thing started because Symonds had a great series in India. He was batting bowling and fielding awesomely. The crowd then decided to get on his back just to "piss" him off. Some wise guy probably started chanting along with his friends. They called Symonds a Monkey just the way some people call George Bush a monkey. It was not racist in nature. They just did it just to piss him off. I would liken it the "Aaloo" (Potato) chants that used to greet Inzamam everywhere in India. I doubt most people in India know also that Symonds is of carribean origin. He infact is fairer skinned than most Indians. It was meant to be a bit of fun, butin these politically correct times got termed racial vilification

  • aussiekitaisi on February 1, 2008, 15:37 GMT

    Why is the "global template" always based on Western standards in any case? Be it behavior, racism, dress code, working conditions, quality of products - everything, the template is from west.

  • nologoboy on February 1, 2008, 15:33 GMT

    Who can honestly say that they don't hold any prejudices, racially or otherwise? India is an ancient civilisation with a history of culturally embedded hierarchical order. Australia, on the other hand, is young and considers itself a land of egalitarian standards. Fact is, our history is short but brutally xenophobic.

    The main prejudice that cricketers are forced to abide by is one of obedience to corporate governance. The modern cricketer is told what standards to apply in all areas of their behaviour, on and off the field. The root of the problem here is a disjointed and inconsistent governing body, the ICC. Why is it that our cricketers are given a thin line to walk if the governing bodies are able to carry on behind the scenes in such a manner that the integrity of the game is thrown into such grave disrepute? Our stars are turning into soulless robots, stifled out of bringing their own personalities to the game and scared into towing the line for corporate standards.

  • vincing on February 1, 2008, 15:28 GMT

    With due respect, I guess the writer is confused. The meaning of religion across world and in India will remain very different for many years to come, and so does racism. Its the reference frame that you talk of in physics. As you say you were called moila, but in most of the cases this kind of term is not spoken with disrespect but rather as a matter of fact. The fair skinned Indians may feel beautiful but never do they feel bad in company of dark skinned people. Yes, times have changed, the disrespect and derogatory way has taken over and the new middle class is more arrogant, ill mannered in the new cosmopolitan cities in India. This, I feel is largely due to the global village. Its high time, we realize that there are old virtues which should never be forgotton, rather be passed through generations. Laws and code of conduct wont help to reduce the growing ill feelings, it would rather increase it. Amid all the laws over racism, the fact is racism exists.

  • digitaleye on February 1, 2008, 15:11 GMT

    Regardless of the verdict in this 'monkey' case, the intricacies of judicial system, and the battered ego on both sides the irrevocable fact is that Indians are always suspect of implied or explicit racism. And what is more discouraging is the fact that we are ready to go to any extent to deny it. This is the whole point of this article by Soumya and the comments refuting the author do a good job in validating the authors point.

  • aphenomenon on February 1, 2008, 14:53 GMT

    From the "freedictionary" site, the definition for the word "racist" is, 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

    With this in mind, reading the article again will help...Soumya has got some of it right and the rest wrong.

    Now, referring to someone as dark would not make the person racist...however reaching the conclusion that because that someone is dark he/she is ugly or dumb or illiterate would be racist. As we all know such notions make the person "narrow minded" and at a loss over a period of time.

    I am not sure as to how referring to someones as "monkey" anywhere across the world makes a person racist...there is more to the story than meets the eye...what actually happened we'll never know.

    All we can do is try not to discriminate based on race, caste, creed, status but purely on behaviour and heart. Live & let live...in harmony.

  • stholas on February 1, 2008, 14:51 GMT

    Listen, there is a difference between saying these things amongst ourselves, and actually meaning it and/or saying it to someone's face. Most races tend to do this in the privacy of their own communities. African Americans openly refer to whites in quite derogatory terms. Does this make them racist as well? Well, yes and no. A certain amount of leeway is given to the formerly downtrodden races. If Indians were racist, would so many of us be travelling outside the country and forging such strong relationships with other races? Enough about the crowd antics in India. I'm sure most of them were just having fun, without giving much thought to the implications of their actions. Committing a crime does not necessarily make one a criminal. This is like saying that someone is a murderer because he drove recklessly and caused a fatal accident. Sure, some amount of retribution is in order, but you can't make blanket statements based on the actions of a minority. Please can we all just get along?

  • mike_behren on February 1, 2008, 14:42 GMT

    Being a half-Indian and half-Australian, my father was often very ashamed of the behavior his son had to face for having an Indian mother and being of the Indian appearance. For he was a true blue Australian and yet...what did i face, some ultimate bullying and such bad reception in public. It was hard for me to identify myself as an Australian kid at school. Ask any teacher or a principal of a school, do they ever punish any student for using such terms in primary/secondary or even High school against a migrant here? You will be surprised to know, they DO NOT!!! Thats because they have bigger issues to worry about, children drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and sometimes even doing things that are unthinkable for you and me. So i can imagine how n why such lack in upbringing remains and then shows in an Australian male's later years. But, the point is....you are requesting India to grow up and realize the changes in world order, i think maybe its time for EVERY nation to grow up a bit.

  • mike_behren on February 1, 2008, 14:36 GMT

    I suggest you should come to Australia, and analyse the casual park cricket played here every weekend, attend to matches such as those played at shield levels and attend to even junior cricket for any fine points in order to identify where it all starts!!! And believe me there i so much wealth here that your bags are not going to be enough to take it all home to write about it in Indian media!! Indians like you should seriously look at themselves and think what all have they eventually gained after becoming so literate themselves!! Sorry to say, this articles makes me feel disgusted as an Indian. And yeah i live in Sydney and have faced RACISM almost on a weekly basis. From the days of my primary school being called a "CURRY MUNCHA", "GANDI" (coming from Gandhi), "Curry in a hurry", "Bla** C**T", and i can't even go on further. Yet Mr. Symonds claimed Indian crowd and then Harbhajan were being racist!!! I am proud of every INDIAN who stood by Bhajji. Please do ur Research well 4 future

  • Harsha_Reddy on February 1, 2008, 14:30 GMT

    I beg to differ from your views, You are saying we have become racists because people in other side of the world think so,then sir you need go educate each one of them in every country about different cultures and backgrounds of each person and please please please define what is racism.We call friends nick names which are in some cases derived from family names,or the religious names or by their appearance ,lambu,mote and all.These kind of nick names happen between kids at an age where they do not even know what their caste or the other persons caste is If thats racism then i think 100% of this world are racists

    I am not debating if we are racists or not but the examples you have given does not really tell me much

    Racism should never be based on words spoken but intent behind it.

  • mike_behren on February 1, 2008, 14:28 GMT

    With all due respect Mr. Bhattacharya, against this statement of yours: "The changing of a collective consciousness, of course, is a long process. But India's international cricket players will need to be among the first to adapt, and quickly." and in response to the whole article you've written, i would like to convey what i feel is missing in your thinking. Ofcourse as logical as you are, you will agree not every one is perfect, yet you have the confidence in thinking yourself to be THE ONE to come out and say these things. Of late, which country's men n women, or Cricket players for that matter do YOU think has taken the longest to adapt and accept quickly that the subjects are racist in nature and should not promote such sentiments. Do you have nay diea what sort of geenral attitude Australians carryto the field when they play a "ROYAL" game such as CRICKET??? .....

  • Australian_White on February 1, 2008, 14:26 GMT

    I mean the article is confusing & the subject is very broad, being an British we share different culture with Indian & other asian countries & similar culture with Australia, SA & other West Indian & African Nations. Racism as per indian context is more on relgious prespectives rather than color. I am inuslted number of times in India, when i speak they feel I am trying to control Indian or Pakistani. Indians are the most racist people in the world i have ever know & most illerate & conservative people i have met.

    For me, Indians can never be racist. But sure Illetrate & conservative towards the culture & religion.

  • wanton-hermit on February 1, 2008, 14:25 GMT

    The author of the article seems to be making two points.

    First, that Indians are racist and they seem to be in denial. It's a known fact that a many in India are deeply prejudiced on the basis of caste/religion/sex or different combinations of these. It really isn't a surprise that they would be prejudiced on the basis of color/ethnicity as well. While prejudice based on color/origins is racism, the word 'racism' itself has larger connotations. If one were to say that many Indians are biased towards darker skin tones instead of saying Indians are racist, I am sure most Indians would agree.

    The second point made is that since racist abuse is highly taboo everywhere, it's the bigger of two evils (the other being non-racist abuse) and that we should keep this in mind when being abusive. Wouldn't it just be better if we weren't abusive at all?? I think it's time we stopped being prejudiced towards non-racist abuses!!!

  • rajivgower on February 1, 2008, 14:23 GMT

    At last!

    What a great article. Finally someone has let the issue of internal racism in the sub -continent surface.

    I am a Tamil from Sri Lanka and I have always felt that fairer Asian people look down on me because of my colour.

    My main problem is that if a European called a guy from Delhi a "b1ack" something, the Asian community would go crazy. But yet the same Asians make same comments about South Indians and Sri Lankans!

    It's all about double standards!

  • Mr_X on February 1, 2008, 14:19 GMT

    This article is a piece of crap. Just another Indian who goes to a Western country, sees that blacks have an equal opportunity to whites (atleast on paper), reflects back and brings out this cliched fairness argument. While most whites still marry whites and blacks to blacks. That has nothing to do with racism. Its a personal choice. Beauty just doesn't depend on whether one is fair or dark. It depends on features, what you put on and how you conduct yourself. A person is naturally attractive when he/she looks bright. When people put on fairness cream or a facial it brightens their and makes it glow and such people look prettier. On another note, just going fair doesn't suit everyone. As a personal choice, Nandhita Das. Its the dusky nature of this woman than makes her special and stand out, else she would be another typical actress. Probably, the "fairness" argument is the strongest you have mentioned to convince that India is a racist as a whole. Pure Dogma!

  • Laxm on February 1, 2008, 14:16 GMT

    Poorly written article. Not convincing. I got the whole point though. Racism is not good, and Indians are racists. Is that what you wanted to Say? So r u suggesting whatever AUS team has been doing since the last 10 yrs is not racism? maybe not in AUS. they need to know cutures are different and need to Shut the heck up, and play cricket. No doubt they're better players than India, that does not mean they are above all to abuse anyone on the field.

  • Shaibin on February 1, 2008, 14:10 GMT

    I perfectly agree with Soumya in this regard. I currently work in a public relations department in the UK & have found it difficult to believe the extent that my colleagues here go to to ensure that they are not offensive to others. I grew up in the south of india & spent eleven years dealing with people from different parts of india all racist in some way or other. A malayalee being racing to a tamilian/teluguite or a Gujarathi being racist to a punjabi etc. It surprises me that we can still call others racist when we are definitely among the most racist in the world irrespective of our education or world wide travel. We ought to grow up & place people like Bhajji in their right place instead of just supporting them just bcoz they are Indian. Be careful to think before yopu call others names. Bhajji would probably have grown up hearing all sorts of jokes like blondes do abroad in Europe.

  • mitra2483 on February 1, 2008, 14:08 GMT

    I congratulate Saumya on his insight into the the racial comment controversy. Many people justify these allegations on grounds that the Aussies had used verbal assaults on their opponents in the past. But I believe that Indian cricketers should refrain from the usage of abusive languages even when they are a victim of the same. They must remember that they not only represent our nation as a sportsman but they are also ambassadors of the values and ideals that we stand for. We would feel proud of our cricketers if they let their performances with bat or ball answer their opponents, instead of using cheap alternate tactics.

  • SAFDARMALIK on February 1, 2008, 14:04 GMT

    It is irony that Australian are getting back which they have used as a tactics to unsettle overseas batsmen particularly from subcontinent for years.I believe monkey is considered less abusive in our part of the world than bastard,which ALLAN BORDER proudly mentioned we used it frequently.You have seen once they were unable to irritate opposition they lost even in Perth.Why is it that all the criteria for insult is based on Australian perception?Why all the rules are made to benefit them? DR SAFDARMALIK

  • symokimaaki on February 1, 2008, 10:38 GMT

    Soumya is the one who is in denial. Sisterf***** is one of the most commonly used words in Hindi. Usually about as offensive as bastard in australia. its absurd that bhajji got fined for saying what he did and Symonds got away with nothing considering he started it. The Australians have once again escaped punishment and they will cite this incident in the future to show what a troublemaker bhajji is! Our board had to take a ridiculous stand to get the ridiculous charges on bhajji dismissed. This article is really STUPID!!! wanting to look a certain way does not make you racist. neither does calling somebody dark if they are dark.

  • kaushal29 on February 1, 2008, 8:33 GMT

    I totally, totally agree. I am not saying that how racist are we when you compare us to others but we are racist nonetheless. Having lived in North India for most of the period I can understand what you're trying to say. Not just the African students being given seemingly harmless but derogatory nonetheless addresses, it's the women from North East who face most of the brunt. We never, never ever, fail to call a mongoloid 'Ch*n*y' and further the women would more often than not be considered characterless. A recent example of racism was when an RJ gave a lewd comment relating to Gurkhas and 'Chowkidari'. It's not just the color of skin we're worried about; it's the religion, region, caste, work, family etc.etc. We are intolerant to anything that's not us. Mothers tell children what class/religion/caste to marry and what not. Whom to mingle with and whom not. Which religion children would make better friends. What color girls are more beautiful. The saddest part is that noone actually thinks of all this as innocent. People from UP/Bihar in Mumbai would know what's otherwise considered a respectable brotherly address is actually a slur against them. People from South India are termed in Delhi. Dark skinned children are usually made fun of in the school, and for the children making fun, we don't need to know where they get their ideas about which skin color is better from.

    It's time India wakes up to global sensitivities and atleast attempt correctness. This is a confident and growing India but if we don't adapt to the generally accepted goods and bads of global societies, we would be considered rogue.

  • iammandar on February 1, 2008, 7:10 GMT

    Finally, a non-fanatical, non-defensive, and balanced look at the whole issue! Whether Harbhajan called Symonds a monkey or not is debatable, but what is of course sure, is that we Indians, despite our rich cultural history, are the biggest hypocrites in the world! We are prejudiced against everything... against women, against expression of freedom, against gay people, against color, against creed, and even against cricketers and actors!! I am still amused by the market for products like "Fair and Lovely" (for women AND men now)!

    However, looking at the bright side of things, people who chanted "monkey" at Symonds are a miniscule minority! For the most of us still will wish well of a person from a foreign land.. an atithi!!

  • jimbond on February 1, 2008, 6:44 GMT

    Most people I know- not just Indians, have a preference for the white skin. Does it make them racist? Is race synonymous with skin colour? Mr Soumya thinks so, I dont. Second as to what can be said on the cricket field, Mr Symonds doesnt like being called a Monkey. So are we to understand that all the other teams in the world liked being sledged by the Australians? The whole purpose of sledging seems to be to give out something that the other person does not like. So are the Aussies saying that they decide the limits of what is to be said? They seem to have the appearance of school bullies who run to the headmaster when they get it back. And we have writers who like to make themselves appear fair and nice to the fair skinned. Everything has to be seen in perspective, my friend.

  • 51n15t9r on February 1, 2008, 6:28 GMT

    I dont know on what basis are you arguing about this. Just that a couple of chumps in India thought that it would be funny to make fun of symo and made some monkey gestures and rightfully, got thrown out of the stadium. The fact that should be kept in mind is that, Harbhajan never really used the racist word against Symo, as he acknowledged. The word was "maa-ki" .. so easily confused by Aussies as "Monkey". I dont see why would you call Indians as deeply racist either. I agree that we all have a fascination with fair skin, but that does not necessarily mean that we are biased against darker skin. Heck, most of the country is dark. How could we be biased against it. And about your "global templates of racism" .. what happened to the "gloabl templates of civility and manners" .. I am not talking about giving back more than you got to the opposition players, but when provoked, I don't see why should an Indian take it lying down. As is accepted by Symo, he did provoke.

  • iane on February 1, 2008, 6:17 GMT

    Here in Australia we lie on the beach to improve our sun tans. Does it mean we aspire to be black people? No, it's got nothing to do with race.

    Similarly, I wouldn't call it racist for an Indian to use a cream to lighten their skin.

  • Rooboy on February 1, 2008, 6:14 GMT

    What a refreshing article. I was beginning to believe that most Indians do not even recognise racism until they are the vicitims. Of course racism exists amongst all races, but the level of denial or justification for racism (there is NONE) from the comments on this website is extremely discouraging. Also, I think people need to make themselves aware of the facts rather than posting with self righteous ignorance. The comment by adi87tya87 'Especially when the offended party (Symonds) has a history of much worse abuse' is just totally, utterly, and completely false. Harbhajan is a serial offender and has a much, MUCH worse disciplinary record than Symonds. The comment by scifilvr that 'the one (Australia) dispensing from the high ground is sadly one where racial integration doesnt exist' is just laughably ridiculous. Could scifilvr please explain how it is possible for 2/3rds of my university classmates to have a non Australian background if there is no racial integration? Get a clue!

  • victa on February 1, 2008, 6:13 GMT

    well, i think every country on this planet have got some sort of racism and nobody can change it to satisfy everybody. i am just wondering how long public and media are going to continue with this monkey business? please please no more monkey business and bring on the remaining cricket with or without all the trouble makers.

  • Vikram_v2 on February 1, 2008, 6:12 GMT

    I m agree with your point.

    Fairness should not be the attribute of skin , it should be the attribute of character.

  • navinrajpal on February 1, 2008, 6:09 GMT

    The bottom-line is to be sensitive to different cultures & think thrice (not twice) before saying something which turns out to be high offensive. A good example from personal experience (which might sound funny) is from 3.5 years back when I was relatively new to America along with being way too naive. That particular day I had to face a really difficult question from an American woman colleague who happened to be attractive albeit being on the thicker side. Now you can call someone 'chubby' or 'healthy' in India & it isn't a big deal; but well - say that to someone in America even with an extremely positive intent or as a compliment (especially to a woman) & you won't see her around for your whole life (which is what actually happened). Well; lesson learned the hard way. Intended meaning doesn't help while implied meaning can get you sued. Think before you release your verbal diarrhea!

  • Noesis on February 1, 2008, 6:02 GMT

    I think Soumya raises a good question though I do not necessarily think that's related to racism in the etymological sense. In India people are generally insensitive when it comes to commenting on physical appearance. So a tall person has to be called a "khamba", a person with imperfect toothline a "tusker", a Sikh a "cauliflower"..If one follows Amitabh's hit number "Mere Angney mein" one can find fun being made on all possible polymorphs of a "biwi" (bride), purely based on physical appearance. It is time we showed maturity as a society instead of gloating in false glory that we are the next emerging superpower.

  • sprog on February 1, 2008, 5:56 GMT

    Saying whether one country is more racist than another is pointless. All countries contain both racist and non-racist people, now and as part of their history. The thing that has annoyed the Australian public most about all of this situation is not that Harbhajan didn't get suspended but rather the BCCI's and some other Indian's attitude that it is inconceivable that any Indian could be racist or have said anything racist. Who knows whether Harbhajan said monkey but similar denials of the possibilty of racism were made after Symonds claimed being racially taunted by the crowd in India, until it was caught on video at the following game. The possible actions of one person should not be considered as a slur on an entire nation. It should only be a slur on that person.

  • sandy_chandra on February 1, 2008, 5:45 GMT

    Soumya I think you are comparing apples with oranges; sure there are some racists among us, but I think as a nation we are an insensitive lot but definitely not racist! Like others have pointed out, no one in India is discriminated on the basis of color or religion. But yes we do pass off incredibly insensitive comments without even blinking. For instance all those sardar "jokes"?? On a personal note, I have often been asked how I am "light-skinned" when I am a south Indian!!! The truth is that historically we have been a layered society (not egalitarian) and part of our communication culture is to be brutally condescending. Do we need to change? Sure.

  • JT21 on February 1, 2008, 5:45 GMT

    "You can argue that we should know what is a racist comment."

    Of course you should. Why? Because Symonds told Bhaji in India last year that it was. That he allegedly used it again makes things worse.

    "There is nothing wrong in flexing our financial muscle power to prove our point. It is now time for other countries to learn and understand us."

    So basically what you're saying is that "we have more money than you, therefore you must do things our way". Wow - so no racism, but class warfare to make other countries blush...

  • Appam on February 1, 2008, 5:42 GMT

    One simple question...How can preference to have a wife/husband/son/daughter with fair skin be classified as racism? Its just a general perception of better looks in India. Tell me..is there any discrimination when it comes to acceptance in the Indian society if a person is dark skinned ? You seriously think people with Dark skin are being discriminated against in a job atmosphere or educational institutions in India ? Its a lame argument that just because many people in India consider having fair skin gives them or others better 'looks', makes them racist!

  • masterblaster666 on February 1, 2008, 5:34 GMT

    Your points about deep-seated preference for fair skin in India are right on the money. But that is not the point. The whole episode is more like the Zinadine Zidane incident in the World Cup final. Somehow it is not OK to headbutt your opponent but it is OK for the opponent to say the filthiest things he can think of to you..veritably provoking you to do something unacceptable, like a headbutt. This is precisely what Andrew Symonds did, by dubiously standing up for his teammate who has played more Tests than him and who shares a great rapport with India - Brett Lee. He needed an excuse to stir up Harbhajan and get him thrown out of the team, like Materazzi. It worked for Italy, it didn't work for Australia, and that's why they are still reluctant to come to terms with it. It's quite possible that Harbhajan did say what he was accused of, but in the absence of evidence, he will have to be let off, just like so many Australian players over the years.

  • Aumlan on February 1, 2008, 5:34 GMT

    Just felt like sharing some thoughts... 1. The ICC needs to appreciate that any misdemeanour on the field ought to be a strict no-no. Call it sledging, mental disintegration, or by any other name... trying to distract opposition by unacceptable means has to be just that - unacceptable. There need to be stiff penalties (to be meted out to anyone guilty, irrespective of nationality) for transgressions. And yes - all have to appreciate that abuses are abuses - whether one is ridiculed on the basis of one's colour or his parentage is questioned. 2. Cross-cultural differences certainly need to be appreciated. But the issue I have with this article is that it puts the blame solely with the Indians, which, sorry to say, is entirely wrong. Players, as well as crowds, from all, repeat, all nations have to be sensitive to the sentiments of all others involved in the game. Period.

  • Me_Pandey on February 1, 2008, 5:25 GMT

    We Indians are unarguably casteist, male chauvinist and frankly speaking, someone divided over everything possible under the sky. However, this idea that we are the most racially prejudiced nation is really a very far- fetched idea and an example of color given by author does nothing to prove her point. In India, one of the attributes of beauty is considered as color. But it does not mean that if someone is said as black ( In hindi, we say it Malin) that fellow is being abused because of his race. Sometimes even parents use these words for their own children. So probably this is our fascination of white color and not something which can be attributed as racial discrimination. We are forgetting the basic point is to take care of others sensitivity and sensitive issues differ on cultural differences. Therefore, the important thing is to be friendly towards others and try to take care of others sensitivities.

  • FairPoint on February 1, 2008, 5:18 GMT

    I think Soumya has taken upon himself the onerous task of representing a billion people and passing a judgement on what they think and how they think. It is a bit naive on his part to attribute his feelings and sensibilities to others. There is a difference between saying someone is racist and saying that someone is insensitive to racist terms. The very fact that most Australians do not consider monkey a racist slur (even Symonds went on record to say that he was not too perturbed by the Indian crowds chanting, it was made as an issue by the Australian media) goes to show that this malaise may not be limited to the Indian populace only. One needs to be very careful when one is using the term racist. This term has been thrown around so often of late that we run the risk of diluting its original meaning. It's people like Soumya who seem to give various forms and shapes to the term racist that we now are starting see everyone starting to defineit in the way it best suits them.

  • Samwise67 on February 1, 2008, 5:16 GMT

    I agree with what Soumya has to say and I find the defense of the word monkey being directed at Andrew Symonds distasteful. However, like a lot of Indians, I am not convinced that Harbhajan said it and that the charge was proven as determined by the match referee. Justice Hansens verdict has demonstrated how unfair and biased that first hearing was. Procter's sanctimonious pronouncements on racism should also be condemned because (as Sunil Gavaskar wrote) he seems to have taken the words of a few white men over a brown man (never mind that Sachin is one of the few players who commands respect wherever he goes).

  • Master S on February 1, 2008, 5:16 GMT

    Oh my gosh, I am sorry but you are such a loser. I mean if you've ever been out of India yourself you'll probably see how racist the rest of the world is, India is definetley one of the more polite countries in the world. Trust me, I know what these other races think of each other. India is certainly more polite.

  • lestokes on February 1, 2008, 5:14 GMT

    I'm sorry to say this article seems nothing more than a nonsense article. I cant see how india are anymore prejudice than any other culture, or cricketing culture for that matter. I mean even some of australias most celebrated players - warne, mcgrath had a pretty good potty mouth. The fact of the matter is that prejudice will always exisit whether it be in the family towards other family members or to the much wider macro society. The fact of the matter, is that you cannot deny that almost everyone is prejudical in someway, and even if you admit your not, your only kidding yourself. So to only blame indian cricket or society is, i'm sorry to say a far cry from reality.

  • tiger_s on February 1, 2008, 5:11 GMT

    I am waiting for the Twenty20 between Aus and Ind to start, log onto cricinfo and find another article on monkeygate! Its amazing how much coverage this controversy has received. Its a well written article but I am not sure if I agree fully with you. Firstly, there is no discrimination based on skin color in India for example in job market, politics, schools, etc. Matrimonial is a different story and even in western countries its fine to have a preference for a particular skin color of the partner. Its about personal choice. Secondly no one in India fought for the rights (all Indians had the same rights) or to abolish color based discrimination since it was non-existent, no one is really bothered by it. Most of ours struggles have been national in the last few centuries. Lets not go ahead and claim that we are racist in places we are not.

  • PAETP on February 1, 2008, 5:07 GMT

    So basically what you are implying is that -after removing all the other nonsensical rubbish- India is somehow a racist nation because the majority have no problem with "Monkey". You really have no clue. Racism is a common occurance in many nations, not just India. I can personally give you a many examples of terms used in Australia, which by your understanding is racist.

    "...among the most racist in the world. African students on the streets of Mumbai will testify to that, as will black cricketers..." Are you implying that this does not occur in other nations? You are so amazingly ignorant of the world around you.

    "...we need to be aware of the fact that a racist insult is the absolute worst thing..." No, I can think of worse. Remember the incident between Chris Cairns and the Australian team involving the passing away of his sister. Although, both parties denied the incident, I would take much more offense to a comment of that nature than some childish "Monkey" call.

  • vinayjoshi9 on February 1, 2008, 5:07 GMT

    You have completely missed the point. Racism is not only about calling someone black or white, racism has much deeper meaning than this. Racism means denial of someone's rights on the basis of his color or ethnicity. Tell me how many times you have been denied of a job just because you are not that fair, handsome whatever you have just said. FYI in India you do not loose a job just because your color is black. If something like that would have happened then no southindian would have found the eminent position in various research centers across India. On the other hand, western countries have always been the countries who deny the fundamental rights of a human being on the basis of his/her color or ethnicity. I am sorry but I do not agree with you fully. I would say that if you call someone black would be ok sometimes but denying his fundamental rights just because he is black would hurt me deeper and that my friend is racism.

  • nccricket on February 1, 2008, 5:05 GMT

    I don't know where to begin, Bhajji a racist ? Really!

    Sisterf** is cool but ni*** ain't ? You know your English "friend" thinks pork chops are the bomb but cockraoch stew and dog meat can only be eaten by the uncivilized - wonder what a billion plus Chinese might think of his bloody thoughts.

    An insult is, like most things, in the eye of the beholder - you can't use a standard brush across the board.

    You call a Sardar a Bastard or a Bengali a kangali, and you are not one of them, you might as well have gone into the Bronx, as KKK supporter, and yelled ni***.

    I have not seen one article anywhere, even on cricinfo, that criticized the Aussies about starting this fracas - the Aussies are "pissed" and Roebuck and Cricinfo and all are out to civilize the brown man ?

    I guess what gets me, is that it is a Bengali once again who is finding that the gora sahib is so noble... no offence though

  • scifilvr on February 1, 2008, 5:04 GMT

    Dude, we're black, only brown!

    Anybody who's lived outside of India knows it! Is anybody even thinking about this??

    It really is like the pot calling the kettle black...oops!

    All the bain'c**** that gets thrown around is like an african american brother calling his mate n&**$%.

    I think you're missing the point as are the australians / aussie media. Yes, this is a racism issue, only, the one dispensing from the high ground is sadly one where racial integration doesnt exist or only got govt sanction in the 60s!!

    Boggles my mind!

    -Brown Indian

  • Himan1963 on February 1, 2008, 5:03 GMT

    Good article - but when it states about the Indian tendency to opt for "fairness" or "light-coloured" skin, unfortunately, it is true but it is a malaise which is not a typically "Indian" malaise - we Indians are racists and it runs quite deep but sorry Mr Bhattacharya, "light coloured" or "fair coloured" is preferred all over the world and it is the fair coloured or the light coloured who started this game of "Superiority" over a long period of time and it is now deep rooted everywhere. It is a question of "packaging" - a person, who may be looking "UGLY" or "AVERAGE" or NOT UPTO THE MARK though he may be exceptionally talented, hard working and sincere and is best in his occupation, still suffers discrimination against in the job interviews. It starts from our basic vision as humans and may be, we being homo sapiens, ultimately advanced form of animals, still want to "spread the best genes" which is a natural animal tendency. So we Indians are not there alone. Thanks for article.

  • ChandraKS on February 1, 2008, 5:01 GMT

    There is a time to write this article. This is not the time. I dont come from an Elite brahmin family and I am dark skinned and I experience what you mean. But again, this is not the time nor forum for this discussion.

  • RottPhiler on February 1, 2008, 4:59 GMT

    Well said!! As an Indian living in the US, and of slightly darker complexion, I completely agree with you. Indians are the most racist in the world. I also have a few friends who openly (ignorantly, unknowingly) mentioned that they preferred fair skinned people in a matrimonial alliance, and it was foremost in their priorities. Not to mention the division based on native state, and classism.

  • FAnon on February 1, 2008, 4:58 GMT

    Modern scientific race (and racist) discourse could have been said to have formally begun with Kant (in the Critiqu of Judgement). Well before him howevera nd coincuidign with European Enlightenment and the New world of Voyages (and discovery and conquest) humanity was already being structured as a heirarchy by the likes of Voltaire and Rousseau. Their emerging science of race already placed the darkest of humanity on its bottom rung. Absurdly Voltaire located Black Africans just above oysters. Kant used skin colour as the primary physical attribute that differentiated the races of man. Of course Darwin and many others like his nephew Galton (the first Eugenicist) followed suit. It was Darwin likely who in The Descent of man and in The origin of species and the preservation of the favoured races placed the Black African closest to the ape. There is a very coherent (and despicable) historical basis to linking black africans and yes even indians as monkeys and apes.

  • SourojitDhar on February 1, 2008, 4:57 GMT

    Soumya... Very well articulated! More importantly its the content that makes most sense. Perhaps it is the 300 yrs British Raj, perhaps it is some primal (thereby subconscious) comprehension, or perhaps it is cultural. The point is, YES, WE ARE RACISTS... all of us... Indians, Australians, everyone. Its human!

    But being human also means being a social animal. We should know better. Unfortunately, we always land up looking for an alien (different looking) enemy to unite us. I agree with you, we all need to grow up!

    Oh! By the way... in another 70-100 years we will all start to look more like each other as races intermingle... or at least here in California.

  • Kazza1 on February 1, 2008, 4:56 GMT

    Thankyou Soumya for being the first Indian who has been honest...APPLAUDS LOUDLY, and is man enough to admit India have problems. The big issue stems with the authorities of Indian cricket not putting Harbhajan on notice when this racism thing reared it's ugly head in India in October. It's one thing to sledge an opponent (it's been going on for years and by all teams-though the Aussies are very good at it...it's up to you if you let it get to you) it's a totally different story altogether to racially abuse someone (and we all know Harbhajan was well aware of what the word 'monkey' means to a black man esp one of African decent) Indian supporters can carry on all they like that monkey isn't racist as the important factor here is that Harbhajan and the Indians players etc...were well aware of it, and now the Indian supporters know it too, so no excuses anymore.Why did Harbhajan deny he even said anything at first, though body language immediately when the incident happened says he did.

  • Jeptic on February 1, 2008, 4:55 GMT

    It is pathetic to see another Indian in England who wants to be popular among the whites by making unjustified comments against Indians. It is funny that she is making these comments in a country that had skin heads - In India when they shave their heads it is for religious purposes. And for some strange reason, she chose to ignore the fact that Austraila, until lately, had one of the most racist immigration policy.....There is no denying that Indians are to some exent racist...everyone is...but to call India the most racist countries around means that you have a lot more to learn about the world around you...Good luck and I hope you score some points with your friends in England.

  • Moreton-Bay-Bug on February 1, 2008, 4:53 GMT

    Thanks for the frankness of and bravery in expressing these views. From the Australian perspective the bully boy and over the top abuse from our cricketers fades in comparison to the seriousness of the charges levelled against Harbhajan. From the Aus context to villify a black player on the basis of race is the lowest form of behaviour. Behaviour that all players from all countries are obligated to report and attempt to stamp out.

  • aditya87 on February 1, 2008, 4:50 GMT

    Look, it's true that some West Indian cricketers have been racially abused in the past, and also that the monkey chants directed towards Symonds were just plain wrong. And racist prejudice does exist in India...no doubt about it. And it must be dealt with, because it is deeply contrary to our nation's ideals as we are a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation, one of the most diverse in the world. That does not mean, however, that one word uttered in the context of a heated exchange initiated by the offended party can be taken out of context in such a slanderous manner. Especially when the offended party has a history of much worse abuse. I therefore think that justice has been done with respect to Harbhajan simply for that reason.

  • get2kumar on February 1, 2008, 4:48 GMT

    Nice article sir! I truly agree to the fact that most of us (Indians) are racists. But I would still support Bhaji if he had made such comments on Symonds.

    Lets say, if i'm in our cricket team and playing against Aussies. They sledge me with the words like 'Sister f*****' etcc.. I repeat the same thing to them, but they were not bothered as much as I was. In the end, they give it to me more that what I given them back. its possible to be patient for some time (a series or two)... but not more than that. I would have to be aggressive and say something (even things like monk**)and give it back to them.

    I believe Bhaji said that (and not 'teri maaki') and support his move. We are no more a country who accept the situation when others abuse us and keep quiet. Its time to be aggressive esp. if the mistake is not on our side !

  • krantidugar on February 1, 2008, 4:46 GMT

    Soumya, this is thought-provoking indeed, and I couldn't agree more. Though I am in US now, I grew up in a Bengali community, and I exactly understand the connotations to "moila". If you haven't already done that, do read 'Indians - Portrait of a People' by Sudhir and Katharina Kakar. That will give you more insights on the color connotation in our culture. Good work, and best wishes for your upcoming book. I wish I could get my hands on it soon..

  • The_Ex-Patriate on February 1, 2008, 4:45 GMT

    I was born and brought up in India, the only child of an English father and Indian mother. I also witnessed first-hand the racism that existed then and obviously still exists today. Yes, India needs to move into the 21st century - the world is shrinking....

  • animanis on February 1, 2008, 4:42 GMT

    Soumya is partially accurate here in describing the mindset of a significant chunk of India's population. Partially, because we as a nation are full of contradictions; and not just when it comes to the color of our skins. We are amongst the few Asian nations to have a large number of black atheletes from Nigeria playing club level soccer. These players are admired and respected for the most part. Is this the characteristic of a nation that is endemically racist as the article implies ?

    Having said that I do agree that the BCCI should have shown more resolve in tackling the monkey-chanting when Australia were touring. But then that is the nature of the BCCI - they will only act when forced to or if there is a monetary benefit.

    Also the article implies that Harbhajan is indeed guilty of making a racist comment, which is a flawed premise at the outset.

  • ram_nanduri on February 1, 2008, 4:36 GMT

    What is this column doing in Cricinfo? Cricinfo gets 1000 hits a day just bcoz of me. I keep refreshing for something new day-in and day-out. All of this is just because I love cricket and cricket is the fodder that fills me. This guy shud put forth this column in some general newspaper or some social congregation of anti-racism, or some school paper abt social behavior, and national traits. What the hell's wrong with Cricinfo? Why are you guys letting people like this corrupt my favorite website. I hate to see such columns in Cricinfo, not because I am an Indian, but only because I read this crap everyday in everyother website. Cricinfo is not the place for it. Cricinfo is purely for cricket. Pls dont publish such articles and piss us off.

  • rigormortis on February 1, 2008, 4:32 GMT

    True, I accept that any form of racistic taunt, comment or abuse is not acceptable and as Indians we have a steep learning curve as to what is and what is not racism. But is it not true that in the very recent incident involving Harbhajan and Andrew Symonds, Harbhajan was just responding in kind to the profanities showered on him by Symonds. In this incident between Harbhajan and Symonds, Harbhajan claims he did not say the word 'mo...' and Tendulkar confirms that, so why should Harbhajan grow up when he did not abuse Symonds racially? Just like Indians have to learn what is and what is not racially apt to other international teams the Australians and other international teams also have to learn what is and what is not offensive to the Indian cricketers and culture. It is a two way process, rather than just asking Harbhajan and Indians to grow up, I would appreciate if the author also asked Symonds and the Australian team to grow up and learn how to talk to players from the opposition.

  • Bumba on February 1, 2008, 4:29 GMT

    The basic assumption on which this article stands is that Harbhajan has indeed uttered the word "Monkey" to Symonds. However, for Soumya's information, a legal hearing, based on all applicable ICC laws, has refuted the charges against Harbhajan. Thus, just like the acquisition against Bhajji, this article stands null and void.

    Furthermore, the author himself states that "We no longer have a choice but to be aware of global templates", "Times have changed" and "We live in a global village". My question to this knowledgeable deputy editor of HT, who is surely another of those Indians who are yet to recover from their colonial legacy ---- is it only "We" who have a responsibility to adjust to the changing times, global templates, and being good villagers of the global village? Going by the logic of the author doesn't the other "villagers" require to respect sub-continental sentiments of being insulted by swearing like "b*****d", "sisterf****r", and motherf****r"?

  • CheckIfTheScreenNameAlreadyInUse on February 1, 2008, 4:26 GMT

    its all very well to say that indians need to be sensitive, atleast when they step out of home, about things that they say. likewise, the aussies need to be sensitive about whats offending to indians.

    how many times did we hear, during this rntire episode, that "bast**d" is hardly an insult in australia and hence not at all incriminating.....a similar line of argument taken by the indians with respect to the M word.

  • kpat on February 1, 2008, 4:23 GMT

    Mr Bhattacharya, this is only one side of the coin. You mention nothing that the global world (Australia/UK etc) needing to learn about Indian culture. There is absolutely no sensitivity towards the Indian culture in the western world. Its high time that our cricketers are not abused as being "bastards" and other swear words that are considered extremely offensive in India. The Indians have been little brothers for a long time. Indians will learn, its in their nature to adapt to changes and be good, but this time the western world will have to make the first move. STOP abusing the Indians with the swear words and the western world will be treated nicely too!

  • JT21 on February 1, 2008, 4:22 GMT

    Unfortunately, racism exists everywhere. Not just in the countries where the majority of people are white (like here in Australia), but anywhere where there is a minority who are either outcasts or subject to intimidation (be it physical, mental or verbal).

    Through this whole mess, my mind's been racing over one point. That calling someone a 'monkey' isn't considered offensive in India (much the same that calling someone a 'bastard' in Australia isn't offensive). That's fine, yet if it isn't offensive - why use it at all? And if the word is used, why direct it only towards Andrew Symonds? Who, just by coincidence, happens to be the only darker-skinned Australian cricketer.

    To argue that it isn't offensive is to hide from the fact that it was directed *only* towards Symonds, and that my friends (whether you like it or not) is racism...

    Yet somehow, we're led to believe that the whole thing is Andrew Symonds' fault.

  • Anupam_Mukherjee on February 1, 2008, 4:22 GMT

    More of holier-than-thou bull***. Firstly things which are wrong in the basic premise: Having a fondness for fairer skin tones is not racism, albeit given the fact that it is stupidity, since the most beautiful girls in the world can be of a dark complexion. Racism pertains to race. The reason color is associated with race in the western world is that people of African descent tend to be of a darker color. In the case of people of the same race, ie. Indians, there is no racism involved. By the way I am Bengali as well and I don't recall 'moila' being used to refer to any person I know. Please keep your personal experiences to yourself. Notice how the paragraph starts as well. The snobbish references to the author's English novelist friend implies his superiority by being a pseudo-westerner. What happened at Mumbai was regrettable, but it is by no means a reason to extrapolate it to all Indians,notwithstanding the author's personal experiences.

  • dtnair on February 1, 2008, 4:22 GMT

    i hate self-loathing articles like this. There is no use blaming harbhajan in all this. He had honoured his part of the deal between him and symonds. But Symonds wanted to use his friendly gesture towards lee as an excuse to knock his concentration off and therefore help break the partnership between bhajji and sachin (it worked five overs later!!). Harbhajan has been fined for his words, what has happened to symonds-NOTHING!! bhajji never made any racist comments, without proof dont pass judgement.

  • RAJ74 on February 1, 2008, 4:21 GMT

    First of all in Indian culture people might make fun of others' skin color and it is not taken as a big insult. Call someone a dark skinned in India and compare the reaction with calling some one with other bad names mentioned in the article above. Outside India and mainly in countries having Anglo-Saxon as majority, racism seems to be the major issue. You can argue that we should know what is a racist comment. Why should we the Indians always try and understand other cultures. Have you ever thought about why it doesn't work the other way around (others understanding the Indian mind set). The answer will be Money. That is what dictates the importance. There is nothing wrong in flexing our financial muscle power to prove our point. It is now time for other countries to learn and understand us.

  • Catchytube on February 1, 2008, 4:09 GMT

    A commendable article with controlled aggression!I'd have to agree with you Sowmya as would most of my friends that live here in the U.S. We all have done or said something with a smidgen of racist intent at some point of time.But that doesn't make us racists.The african people that live in India would most certainly attest to that but I believe a lot of the remarks they get are simply out of unfamiliarity of how to refer them and be politically correct.I remember my mother, an innocent schoolteacher, refer to the Williams sisters as 'negroes' while she had nothing but endearment for them-just because lack of a better word known to her.If she moves here and comes in contac with a lot of african americans and learns the proper way of referring to them and learns what is offensive to them , she would never say that word again.In Harbajan's case, if he did say that, that was just with venomous intent.It is my understanding that the players were briefed before the series about these words

  • jamrith on February 1, 2008, 4:01 GMT

    Very true, in all the hubbub about the events Down Under we have forgotten that in India, the caste system still prevails, and skin whitening creams are big business. The Mumbai crowds have abused their own darker skinned players like Vinod Kambli.

  • kappa on February 1, 2008, 4:01 GMT

    Great Article - and very Brave - This is the first time I have read something like this and face it..its the truth. Having said that this is only one facet of the whole affair - But then this one facet that the article addresses has the potential to make a whole lot of positive change.

    Obviously I am an Indian and thanks for writing this.

  • veeyes on February 1, 2008, 4:00 GMT

    I totally agree to the point that Indians are big-time racists, and I am dying to change, the self first. But, calling someone a monkey, I don't think can be considered a racist taunt by any Indian. How many parents in India have not called their kids a monkey? And, how on earth is calling someone a b4$T4RD not worse than calling him a monkey? Isn't demeaning your mom something much more denigrating than calling you by your skin colour??? And just because the Western World and Australia don't mind it, you want the rest of the world to consider it not foul? Again, in all this, I totally agree that we have been, and are, racists, but, I find it difficult to believe that anybody in India would taunt someone like Symonds with racist comments. Sorry to say that I find this perspective too parochial for a column in a website that people all over the world visit.

  • mehulmatrix on February 1, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    Good Article, The point about using lotions etc & having a definition of attractive as fair,etc is perfect example. Guess till we have this mindset of foundness of white-skin we all are racists in a way! Bhajji should stop his antics & concentrate on his cricket.He was such a nice player & has fallen way too much. Giving back the aussies is fine to challenege them, but the line shouldnt be crossed however bad they have told you. Guess now the aussies will also be aware of not getting into too much of personal sledging & so good eye-openet for them aswell.

  • hemantsood on February 1, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    I still don't believe this incident was related with racism. Being a writer or media person you have right to express and reach to wider audience than a normal man. Whole episode was based on the fact that Monkey goes with different meanings at different places.

    Monkey is being a colloquial term in India where in UK/USA/AUSTRALIA it stands for something really big. Where as the F word at these place used as the language is incomplete without it. But in back in India it holds a big value,I don't know whether you have followed this incident closely or not, but this monkey was turned out be Maaki instead and being an Indian I assume you better understand that this is no way related to racism.

    I still believe that the incident which happened in India with Symonds was again not racism though media turned it that way. What we see and read is all because of Media and fact of the matter is media plays a big part, how an normal indian thinks.

  • rosko on February 1, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    You are spot on Soumya. Beyond cricket one only needs to read of the racist abuse directed at African footballers (soccer players) affiliated with Indian clubs to grasp the extent of this entrenched problem.

    What is so ironic is that many of the people who invoke the memory of Gandhi-ji and his heroic anti-racist struggle to somehow rationalize the fact that India can not be racist more often than not seem to bear a closer resemblance to the fanatics who killed him. The statement by some idiot that the monkey chant was an invocation to Lord Hanuman beggars belief.

    India and Indians can and should do better. India is now the de-facto head of world cricket. The cricketing world is looking for inspired leadership.

  • Peaceforall on February 1, 2008, 3:51 GMT

    Wow!! You know, when i started reading your article, i felt that 'oh, here's another liberal thinking prose...lots of BS essentially'. But as i read, i just made total sense. You are right, we need to grow up.

  • Mangomix on February 1, 2008, 3:51 GMT

    Fantastic article, as an Indian living in Australia since I was 10, I understand both sides, and what you've written is spot on.

  • rofern79 on February 1, 2008, 3:48 GMT

    Excellent article Soumya! As I write this, there will be many of my fellow Indians taking umbrage at your comments, which in my opinion, are very insightful and bang on. I am "lucky" to be one of the "fair-skinned" Indians and you know what, it makes me billeous to hear "compliments" to that effect all the time. It's really time we grow up in this regard. What was probably the most sad thing to see during the India-Australia ODI series is that Symonds played so fabulously and his moment of glory was booed by the crowds. Now Symonds is no angel but to draw attention to his gamemanship (or boorish behaviour) is to miss the point. Keep up the good work Soumya. It's people like you that give me hope. Cheers and Go Team India!

  • Darkshine on February 1, 2008, 3:48 GMT

    Brilliant!

    A fantastically written article. About time someone came out and said it like it is.

  • skodu on February 1, 2008, 3:38 GMT

    You are ok to write this article if it is proven Harbhajan said those Monkey words. Unfortunately it is not proven, it is just an allegation. Any reasonable human being do not make same offense twice, unless there are highly subjective people who tried to jump in the band wagon.

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  • skodu on February 1, 2008, 3:38 GMT

    You are ok to write this article if it is proven Harbhajan said those Monkey words. Unfortunately it is not proven, it is just an allegation. Any reasonable human being do not make same offense twice, unless there are highly subjective people who tried to jump in the band wagon.

  • Darkshine on February 1, 2008, 3:48 GMT

    Brilliant!

    A fantastically written article. About time someone came out and said it like it is.

  • rofern79 on February 1, 2008, 3:48 GMT

    Excellent article Soumya! As I write this, there will be many of my fellow Indians taking umbrage at your comments, which in my opinion, are very insightful and bang on. I am "lucky" to be one of the "fair-skinned" Indians and you know what, it makes me billeous to hear "compliments" to that effect all the time. It's really time we grow up in this regard. What was probably the most sad thing to see during the India-Australia ODI series is that Symonds played so fabulously and his moment of glory was booed by the crowds. Now Symonds is no angel but to draw attention to his gamemanship (or boorish behaviour) is to miss the point. Keep up the good work Soumya. It's people like you that give me hope. Cheers and Go Team India!

  • Mangomix on February 1, 2008, 3:51 GMT

    Fantastic article, as an Indian living in Australia since I was 10, I understand both sides, and what you've written is spot on.

  • Peaceforall on February 1, 2008, 3:51 GMT

    Wow!! You know, when i started reading your article, i felt that 'oh, here's another liberal thinking prose...lots of BS essentially'. But as i read, i just made total sense. You are right, we need to grow up.

  • rosko on February 1, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    You are spot on Soumya. Beyond cricket one only needs to read of the racist abuse directed at African footballers (soccer players) affiliated with Indian clubs to grasp the extent of this entrenched problem.

    What is so ironic is that many of the people who invoke the memory of Gandhi-ji and his heroic anti-racist struggle to somehow rationalize the fact that India can not be racist more often than not seem to bear a closer resemblance to the fanatics who killed him. The statement by some idiot that the monkey chant was an invocation to Lord Hanuman beggars belief.

    India and Indians can and should do better. India is now the de-facto head of world cricket. The cricketing world is looking for inspired leadership.

  • hemantsood on February 1, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    I still don't believe this incident was related with racism. Being a writer or media person you have right to express and reach to wider audience than a normal man. Whole episode was based on the fact that Monkey goes with different meanings at different places.

    Monkey is being a colloquial term in India where in UK/USA/AUSTRALIA it stands for something really big. Where as the F word at these place used as the language is incomplete without it. But in back in India it holds a big value,I don't know whether you have followed this incident closely or not, but this monkey was turned out be Maaki instead and being an Indian I assume you better understand that this is no way related to racism.

    I still believe that the incident which happened in India with Symonds was again not racism though media turned it that way. What we see and read is all because of Media and fact of the matter is media plays a big part, how an normal indian thinks.

  • mehulmatrix on February 1, 2008, 3:56 GMT

    Good Article, The point about using lotions etc & having a definition of attractive as fair,etc is perfect example. Guess till we have this mindset of foundness of white-skin we all are racists in a way! Bhajji should stop his antics & concentrate on his cricket.He was such a nice player & has fallen way too much. Giving back the aussies is fine to challenege them, but the line shouldnt be crossed however bad they have told you. Guess now the aussies will also be aware of not getting into too much of personal sledging & so good eye-openet for them aswell.

  • veeyes on February 1, 2008, 4:00 GMT

    I totally agree to the point that Indians are big-time racists, and I am dying to change, the self first. But, calling someone a monkey, I don't think can be considered a racist taunt by any Indian. How many parents in India have not called their kids a monkey? And, how on earth is calling someone a b4$T4RD not worse than calling him a monkey? Isn't demeaning your mom something much more denigrating than calling you by your skin colour??? And just because the Western World and Australia don't mind it, you want the rest of the world to consider it not foul? Again, in all this, I totally agree that we have been, and are, racists, but, I find it difficult to believe that anybody in India would taunt someone like Symonds with racist comments. Sorry to say that I find this perspective too parochial for a column in a website that people all over the world visit.

  • kappa on February 1, 2008, 4:01 GMT

    Great Article - and very Brave - This is the first time I have read something like this and face it..its the truth. Having said that this is only one facet of the whole affair - But then this one facet that the article addresses has the potential to make a whole lot of positive change.

    Obviously I am an Indian and thanks for writing this.